Portrait of a man holding a bird by Antoine Pesne


Court art and rococo between France and Germany in the 18th century.

Portrait of a man holding a bird by Antoine Pesne.

Antoine Pesne

Paris 1683 – Berlin 1757

Portrait of a man holding a bird.

Black chalk heightened with white chalk on blue paper.

141 x 110 mm – 5,55 x 4,33 in.

Probably the project for a painted portrait, our drawing shows a man wearing a velvet jacket typical of the 1720s and 1730s, who seems about to give his parrot a letter to deliver.

Trained in Paris with Charles de la Fosse, Antoine Pesne stayed in Venice from 1707 to 1710. He then went to Berlin on the invitation of King Frederick-William I of Prussia, where he led a successful and prolific career, mainly as a portraitist. He also made a few history or genre paintings and was admitted in the Parisian Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1720 on the presentation of a picture representing Samson and Dalila (Carcassonne, Musée des Beaux-Arts). His many portraits of the members of the court of Prussia were held in high esteem by his contemporaries.

His rare drawings, with his usual meticulous and tight technique, always demonstrate great refinement. It is the case of this work, which is made by small strokes of black chalk, sometimes placed over the stumping. This precise technique does not preclude him from skillfully rendering the smoothness of the jacket fabric. The background landscape and the treatment of the man’s hands and face are typical of Pesne. They can also be observed on a drawing in the Metropolitan Museum, graphically very close despite its religious subject. 

Condition report – Good condition. Laid down on a later mount bearing an old attribution to Largillière.